Great Cycling Climbs of Andalucia - Agua de los Perros - The Water Dogs
The "shits of death"... Not a very auspicious name to start such a great climb, but a decent enough warning of whats ahead in any event.
The Strava Segment Stats:
Avg Grade: 6%
This climb starts at the north end of the Las Villas range, where the Guadalquivir, its torrents stemmed by the massive dam wall of El Tranco, veers sharply westward through the range cutting a dramatic gorge as it fights to get to the Sea. The climb starts at a bridge that fords the river: it was along here that an early wagon driver, perhaps with too much tapa and vino tinto, managed to steer his wagon off the road and tumble to the gorge below. Wether the road was called the "shits of death" before he crashed, or after, is lost in time...
The road travels southward through one of the least travelled areas of the national park, but one of the most rewarding. It eventually spits you out after 60k of tumultuous rise and fall, convoluted contours and rugged panormas at Chilluevar, but first you need to ascend its flanks and reach the Collados de Aguas de Los Perros... "The Water Dogs".
The climb starts with a fairly gentle riparian ramp, but you are under no illusion that youre fighting gravity. The section is hemmed in by near vertical cliff walls and fecund vegetation encroaching the verges and creating a leafy canopy over head. The shallow river to the right, babbling its way to meet the effervescent Guadalquivir.
Crossing the Arroyo Maria marks the first switch-back, and there are 11 more to go...just on the first section. These ramps take you up the steepest part of the climb, up and away from the gorge below to the high mountain passes. 12 switch-backs through olive covered narrow roads that lead relentlessly "up". The only sound the hypnotic rhythm of the bike beneath you, and the rasping lungs within you. Strava reckons this initial section is only "Cat 2", but I´m not convinced. It looks and feels much tougher as height is gained with alarming speed, almost as fast as the legs fill with lactic. It rewards with stunning views back across the valley.
Once past the switchbacks, a short respite is given while the road meanders past a small campsite and a few small holdings and makes its way around a headland to start its final push to the high road. Past the campsite the road is less aggressive, but pierced with short sharp ramps that go deep into double digit country. The road winds its way through the high pines and the aromas of pine, rosemary and sage start to over power the tang of olive.
At a short steep corner the road emerges in an opening that reveals the expanse of the forests and olive groves in the northern ranges. The clearing has a viewing point, and for those brave enough to stand on the crumbling concrete platform above the 100m drop offers a great view down the valley. "El Tapadero" marks the last real challenge, while the fat lady is yet to sing, she is gargling with lemon and warming up her windpipes. If you stop here for a breather and take in the views, good, cycling is for enjoying, if not, be encouraged that the summit is not far away.
A great climb.
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